Back is Back

I’m lying on the couch at my parents house with a hot water bottle, anti-inflams and magic cream.  This is Day 4 of lying on the couch at my parents house with a hot water bottle, anti-inflams and magic cream. Yep, the back has gone again.

The view from the couch at Mum and Dad's.  Certainly helps with recovery to be looking at that!

The view from the couch at Mum and Dad’s. Certainly helps with recovery to be looking at that!

Let me give you some background.  I have had lower back issues most of my life.  But it all came to a head a few years ago when I had herniated discs and was unable to function for a couple of months.  The pain was unbearable and unrelenting and I could do little more than walk from bed to the bathroom.  It was difficult to find any medical practitioners that would take the time to understand what was going on beyond a “bad back” and took quite some time to have it appropriately diagnosed and develop a care plan.

Once I started recovering I had quite a learning curve.  I had to relearn a lot of movements, even something as simple as walking up stairs required planning and lots of time.  I remember the first day back at work and I stood at the bottom of the stairs and had to think about lifting my foot and placing it on the first step.  That was a huge shock for me and I was stunned that I had to give so much thought to something I had always taken for granted.

Eventually I was able to start training again.  I remember my first session with my PT Kim and how everything I had achieved with weight training previously had gone out the window.  I was back to about 1kg weights all round, if that.  And stretching on all fours was little more than actually getting on all fours and only being able to lean backwards one or two inches.

But I did it.  It was a long hard road but I did get back.  Working with my PT and my physio I focussed on core strength and doing what I could do minimise it happening again.

It has happened again, numerous times over the years.  None have really been as bad as that time but they do mean I’m laid up for a couple of weeks and it really messes with my head.  It has usually occurred due to me doing something that should probably not have been on my to do list.  Once was after I mowed my lawn (it’s a BIG lawn), another time when I had re-potted some plants and once when I had stupidly worn socks on a tile floor and slipped.  It doesn’t go at the time, it’s usually the next day and I have to think back to what could have caused it.

The last time my back went was just before Christmas 2011 and I tried to cope for a couple of days then waved the white flag on Christmas Day and went out to Mum and Dads.  I hate having to rely on them but have realised that each time I have to get up to make myself a meal or redo my hot water bottle, I’m doing more damage.  On this occasion, I had just started to get serious about weight loss and had given up chocolate the month before.  Being out at the farm was good because I ate the portions that Mum and Dad did and only ate when they did.  I think it helped me start reducing my intake and I did manage to lose weight for the week or so I was with them.

Then for all of 2012 I steadily lost weight to get me where I am today (56kgs lost).  A lot of people have commented how my back must be much better now because of all the weight loss but, to be honest, it has still always been a constant fear.  As much as my excessive weight wouldn’t have helped, I do still have a fundamental weakness in my back.  There is probably not a single training session where my PT doesn’t check how my back is and every time I bend down to pick something up I do it carefully worried that it will be the time my back goes again.

This time has been a bit different though.  Instead of having it spasm and give me hours of pain, it has slowly come on and doesn’t seem to be directly related to a particular incident.  The recovery has also been a bit quicker than previous times.  It’s still the usual 7-10 days but feels easier and I certainly didn’t miss those spasms!

When I saw my physio this week, I told him about Dads first comment when he came to collect me (“I thought this was never supposed to happen again!”).  I guess Dad was under the impression that losing weight meant no more back issues.  Adam (Physio) gave me another perspective (besides my explanation of fundamental weakness) which was that when people lose weight, sometimes they don’t find the right balance between calories in and calories out and that can mean the body starts breaking down the muscles and other good things which may contribute to my weak back at this point.

I do know, and have discussed previously, about the in/out situation but it was good to hear it logically applied to my back issues.  Now that I am no longer trying to lose weight and choosing to focus more on fitness and strength, maybe that balance of in/out will be more regularly achieved.

Either way, the back is getting back to normal and at my next physio appointment I’ll be doing my usual of looking for timeframes for return to exercise.  Adam is very tolerant, and amused, by my need for timeframes or to quantify my physical capabilities when I’m in recovery mode.

The big difference, other than physical, with this particular back occurrence, has been my head space.  When I finally realised that it wasn’t just a sore back but actually a bulging disc, I kind of expected to fall apart.  I’ve previously thought how upset/angry/disappointed/devastated I would be if my back went again after all these changes I’ve made.  But it didn’t come.  No tears, no “poor me” moments, just focus on recovery and comparison to how bad it might have been if I was still lugging around a spare 56kgs.  I’ve noticed before how this weight loss has affected my mental health and this is another example.  I guess under it all, I know that my back will recover, I’ll be out running again soon(ish) and 7-10 days rest/inaction will not result in me gaining all the weight back.  It’s kinda nice to give myself a break occasionally and not always think the worst!

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